Smartphone device tests male fertility with 98% accuracy

The new test utilizes the advancements in consumer electronics and microfabrication. A disposable microchip with a capillary tip and a rubber bulb is used for simple, power-free semen sample handling.

A new smartphone-based device that can measure semen quality and determine men’s level of fertility with 98% accuracy has been developed by scientists, says a new study.

The sperm analyser consisting of an optical attachment that can connect to a smartphone and a disposable device onto which a semen sample can be loaded is being built by researchers, including those from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in the US.

While the new technology is still a few years away, scientists believe that the development is an advance that may prove to be a boon in countries lacking access to fertility tests as well as making the testing easier and cheaper for men.

The new test utilizes the advancements in consumer electronics and microfabrication. A disposable microchip with a capillary tip and a rubber bulb is used for simple, power-free semen sample handling.

Scientists also designed a user-friendly smartphone application that guides the user through each step of testing, and a miniaturised weight scale that wirelessly connects to smartphones to measure total sperm count.

To evaluate the test, researchers collected and studied about 350 clinical semen specimens at the MGH Fertility Centre.

Overall, the smart phone-based device was able to detect abnormal semen samples based on World Health Organization (WHO) thresholds for sperm concentration and motility with an accuracy of 98 per cent.

The team also evaluated how well both trained and untrained users performed the test using the smartphone-based device.

“We wanted to come up with a solution to make male infertility testing as simple and affordable as home pregnancy tests,” said Hadi Shafiee of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the US.

“Current clinical tests are lab-based, time-consuming, and subjective. This test is low-cost, quantitative, highly accurate, and can analyse a video of an undiluted, unwashed semen sample in less than five seconds,” Shafiee added.

More than 45 million couples were estimated to be infertile globally in 2010, about 15% of all couples worldwide. And men are estimated to be solely responsible for up to 30% and to contribute to up to 50% of cases overall.